I have been luxuriating in several days off from my part-time job as a web consultant....and I had two perfect days in a row this week.
On Monday, writer Russ Parsons came to town, promoting the book I've been shoving into everyone's hands at the farmers market. I've enjoyed our small correspondence over the years, since I first met him at eGullet. Before they kicked me off, that is. (Hi, Jason Furlough! I owe it all to you!)
The Capitola Book Café contacted me several weeks ago, asking if I'd like to help promote some of the upcoming readings they were sponsoring, and I jumped at the chance to work with Russ's book, just because of the esteem in which I hold him. Knowing his own fondness for farms, I wrote to invite him on a tour of some of the farms I love. He accepted, and that's what we did on Monday.
Linda and Steven Butler at Lindencroft hosted our first stop: I love taking people there because you cannot believe what they did with a one-acre sand quarry. Russ got to taste the amazing sugar snap peas, right in the pods, that Linda grows. The plants are over six feet tall.
And a first: he got to taste some 'Tenderstem Green Inspiration' broccoli, from Mr. Fothergill's Seeds, a British company. It was a lovely visit, indeed.
We left the very hot weather up in the mountains and headed down the coast a ways to Everett Family Farm, just a couple of miles as the crow flies from my home in Soquel. Farmer Mike Irving dropped his work with transplants to give us a tour of the verdant valley, and showed us both the newest persimmons that were planted. He introduced us to Ohlone, the baby goat owned by the Everett girls. Here she is.
Our next stop, of necessity, took us back up into the Santa Cruz Mountains, to the home of Heidi Schlecht, of the River Cafe and Cheese Shop, who had taken donated product from Lindencroft and worked her magic on it. This food was to be part of a smorgasbord in honor of Russ, after his reading.
Pictured here: the new Fuyu persimmons, sprouting spring green leaves, among the vetch (cover crop) at Everett Family Farm.
I dropped Russ off back at his hotel, and got myself to the bookstore, where Cynthia Sandberg and friends had arrived early to get chairs.
She helped me hull the flat of Seascape strawberries that Mike and Teresa donated, and then helped me assemble my own offering: dried Royal Blenheim apricots grown by Betty Van Dyke, with basil (Mike and Teresa) and goat cheese. These dishes joined Heidi's food: frittatas with Lindencroft potatoes and asparagus, a fava bean dip with crostini, a platter of crudité (sugar snap peas, roasted red and yellow beets, roasted asparagus, and orange and purple carrots) with Linda Butler's chipotle peppers in aïoli. Justin Severino sent over three kinds of his patés, along with some accompaniments. Alas, I was too busy working to remember to take a picture of it all. Kicking myself now, sheesh.
I had another volunteer, the utterly gorgeous Willow, who farms at Route One. Because the crowd was so unexpectedly huge, we had to ask people to take only one serving of the meats, and Willow was graciously overseeing that end of things, and passing hors d'oeuvres as well. Another duh: I didn't take a picture of her—or her silver toenails, peeking out from high-heeled sandals. This is not farmers market garb, and I missed a chance to really dazzle the people who have criticized my photographs of farmers as being "too pretty-looking to be real." (No, I'm not kidding. They'd keel over if they saw Willow's nail polish, not to mention the lipstick and the va-va-va-voom figure on her. Goddess!)
It was a wonderful thing for Robin Somers to do: Russ writes about the Albion strawberries being developed, but had not yet had the opportunity to taste them. I telephoned her while she was on the road home from San Francisco, scurrying to his reading, and she was kind enough to stop at her son's farm and pick a basket for him.
So, what's the "copycat" thing about? Russ drew a big round of applause when he said how sick he is of celebrity chefs, and he thought it was about time there were celebrity farmers. When "Farmer John" (of "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" fame) appeared in San Francisco, I attended the screening—which Al Gore introduced. At the Q & A, I asked John if he thought he was going to be on Oprah any time soon: that I thought it was high time that our farmers were the celebrities instead of the usually egotistical chefs. Great minds think alike!
So, long story short, a Good Time Was Had by All, and I believe Mr. Parsons enjoyed himself enough to contemplate another trip up here before too much time has passed. He was acquainted with the UCSC agricultural program, which will celebrate its 40th birthday this summer, and I believe that piqued his interest. I believe the book is going to sell like here, and anywhere there are CSAs and farmers markets with fanatics like me shopping on a weekly basis.
I know I had a fabulous time, as I always do with someone whose knowledge is so well-rounded and considerate.
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And that, dear reader, is all for today.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” — Aristotle
Well, it ripens more quickly when it's cooked. If I share my stove with someone, they are family.
Thanks for visiting.